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Woman Killed, Son Critically Injured After Massive Fire Breaks Out At Home In Hudson Valley

The site of the deadly fire.
The site of the deadly fire. Photo Credit: Google Maps street view

A woman was killed and her 29-year-old son was critically injured during a house fire in the Hudson Valley.

The blaze broke out in Orange County around 10:50 p.m., Wednesday, June 15 in the city of Newburgh at 68 Lander St.

When an assistant fire chief arrived on the scene, for a reported kitchen fire, he found a large volume of smoke coming from all three floors of a middle-of-the-block, row-type brick house, with visible fire on the first and second floor, said Chief Francis Spinelli, of the city Newburgh Fire Department.

A second alarm was immediately sounded.

Almost immediately after stepping from his vehicle, this same assistant chief witnessed an adult male jumping from the third-story window and landing on the front steps of the building, Spinelli said.

With a report of an additional female trapped in the building, two firefighters attempted to make an entry via the front door to search for the occupant, while the third member attempted to move the severely injured jumper away from the front door and tend to his injuries, he added.

"Due to severe fire conditions the search members were unable to get into the house, and due to wires across the front of the buildings, the ladder truck was unable to operate," the chief said.

Three members secured a source of water from a hydrant and began stretching two hose lines to the front door of the building. 

As lines were being stretched firefighters raised a ground ladder to try to gain access to the third-floor window. As a member attempted to make an entry via a ground ladder severe heat conditions prevented him from doing so, Spinelli said.

Firefighters began fighting the fire on the first floor so they could make their way to the upper floor to search for the missing woman. 

Once they made their way to the second floor, they discovered that the stairs between the second and third floors were completely burned away, Spinelli added.

Shortly after, the second engine, staffed by three members, arrived on the scene and began to assist with extinguishment, he added.

As the volume of smoke reduced it became evident that the female that had been missing was leaning partially out of the third-floor window. An additional attempt at reaching her via the ground ladder was again prevented by severe fire conditions venting out the window above her, the chief said.

Once the fire was out, firefighters found Debra Benedict, age 63, who had died, officials said.

Her son, Justin Benedict, age 29, remains in critical condition, Spinelli said.

The cause of the fire was determined to be a cooking oil fire that the occupant threw water onto and created a larger fire, the chief said.

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